John Shearer: Covering The Derek Dooley House Auction

Monday, August 25, 2014 - by John Shearer

On Saturday, as part of my freelance journalism work I do, I had an opportunity to cover the scheduled auction of former Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley’s home in West Knoxville.

He has, of course, moved on to Dallas with his family as receivers coach of the Cowboys of the NFL, but his large and historic home bought within his first year at Tennessee for more than $2 million was still for sale.

I had volunteered to cover the event for the Knoxville News Sentinel, so I was excited knowing it would not be the typical high school sports event or weekly festival type story.

Being interested in history, I had in advance tracked down some information about the builder of the home back in the 1930s – Otho Dorsett, who had made his money with the Knox Porcelain Corp. I had also learned that the two recent owners of the home before the Dooleys were a Dr. John Hoskins Jr. and Knoxville investments and real estate official Robert Talbott.

After driving down winding Duncan Road just west of Lakeshore Park past a variety of homes representing different eras and personal incomes, I saw the address – 2130 Duncan Road.

I had actually driven by the 10,000-square-foot home once before back in 2010. An article in the paper had mentioned about the Dooley family’s purchase of the home and its address. So being a curious – or maybe nosy – person, I drove by it one day. And I was impressed with the aesthetically pleasing home sitting at the top of a nicely sloping hill and was glad it was not a typical large house built in the last 10 years.

When I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning, I immediately knew something did not seem right, as I saw only three or four cars, and one appeared to be turning around.

A man named Chuck Fisher, representing the Furrow Auction Co., and his son were letting people know the auction was canceled because the home had been sold the day before. But complicating the matter for me was that he said the buyer and the price were being kept confidential until the closing, when, of course, it becomes public record.

I got a little information from him, and he did tell me that a former owner, Robert “Doc” Morris, was there. So I parked my car and went up and talked with him.

A retired surgeon whose life growing up as the son of an educator in rural Sevier County gave him an easily approachable personality, Dr. Morris talked about owning the home from 1970-87.

After talking with him for a period and seeing just a few other cars drive up and turn around after being told the auction was canceled, I was told by Mr. Fisher that they needed to secure and close up the property.

I asked if I could get a picture of the front of the house, and he said that would be fine. So Dr. Morris and I walked up to the house from the west side and I took a few pictures of the front while he told me some more information about the house and the additions made to it.

He said he had built on to the back of the house, finding nearly identical brick in Virginia, and that he formerly had a swimming pool right next to the east end of the house. Today, a large terrace patio with a grill and lounge chairs is there, and a water-over-the-dam type of swimming pool and an outdoor basketball court sit about 20-30 yards down the east side of the hill.

He also told me that the estate originally had about 60 more acres, but he sold those off.

As we walked around, I started thinking about the Dooley family and the disappointments that come at some point for most everybody, even for people of means or accomplishment.

I had gone to the University of Georgia when Derek’s father, Vince, was the football coach, and I had observed and talked briefly with Derek and his family when I would see them fairly regularly at Church Street United Methodist Church. His wife, Dr. Allison Dooley, seemed especially nice and approachable, and his three children seemed like typically happy and well-adjusted youngsters.

In part because of those connections, I wanted to see him succeed, except, of course, when he played my alma mater. But he did not win enough games from 2010-12 and resigned. And then after he left and was replaced by Butch Jones and his more magnetic personality, more people began to criticize former Coach Dooley’s coaching style on and off the field.

As a Georgia fan, I could relate to that, as I greatly scrutinized less successful Bulldog football coaches Ray Goff and Jim Donnan, and even the likable Mark Richt’s record with player off-the-field incidents.

But as I walked back to my car Saturday, I was just thinking of the sadness of the whole Dooley family situation in Knoxville, even though they are probably doing well living in Dallas, his wife’s former hometown.

Maybe he can find another head coaching job somewhere if he wants and can try to redeem his career after learning from whatever mistakes he made at Tennessee. Or maybe he can become an athletic director, like he was at Louisiana Tech.

Or maybe he can even practice law, which I had heard around our church he was planning on doing for a period in Knoxville until the Dallas job suddenly opened.

Anyway, I said goodbye to Dr. Morris and Mr. Fisher from the auction company. After getting in my car but before leaving, I quickly tried to call real estate listing agent Sharon Bailey to get a little more information for my story. I was thankfully able to reach her.

After getting off the phone, I drove the 100 yards or so down the driveway knowing I was the only one still there. It was an interesting feeling to say the least and a quiet contrast to the attention that was expected to have been thrust on that estate that morning.

Jcshearer2@comcast.net


3 Community Leaders Appointed To Board Of Directors At Habitat For Humanity

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area announced that business leaders, Tracee D. Smith and Barbara Marter and longtime educator and community leader, Veronica Herrera have been appointed to its board of directors. The appointments were effective  June 25  and will increase the number of directors to 17 members.   "We are excited that Barbara, Tracee, ... (click for more)

Boynton Terrace, Tower 2, Residents Must Move Out For Remodeling, Including Woman, 100

Chattanooga Housing Authority officials said Tuesday that all residents of Boynton Terrace, Tower 2, must move out prior to the start of a major upgrade of the public housing facility on Cameron Hill in early January. Naveed Minhas, development director, said on earlier high-rise projects the work was done several floors at a time. But he said it appears CHA can save as much ... (click for more)

Tyecha McCullough, 23, Stabbed To Death At College Hill Courts; 2nd Person Hurt; Eric McCullough, 46, In Custody

Tyecha McCullough, 23, was the  woman who was stabbed to death at College Hill Courts on Wednesday night. At approximately  10:27 p.m.,  the Chattanooga Police Department responded to 1400 Cypress Street Court for a stabbing.   Officers located the victim suffering from a life-threatening stab wound and she  was transported from the scene ... (click for more)

Cohutta Bank On Highway 58 Robbed

For the second day in a row, a Chattanooga bank was robbed by a white male. Chattanooga Police responded to Cohutta Bank in the 5600 block of Highway 153 on the report of a robbery on Wednesday afternoon. The suspect, who was reported to be unarmed, used a note to demand cash from the teller. No one was injured during this robbery.  The suspect left in a ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Strong

The hearts, minds and prayers of Tennesseans, and of the entire nation, have been turned toward Chattanooga this month.  We are sickened and saddened by the senseless tragedy, and we grieve for the families of the five service members who were killed, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” K. Wells, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Dr. Palmer, You’re Toast

America is absolutely furious! By 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon there were 36,000 people who had petitioned the White House to extradite Walter Palmer, who is today the most despised man in all of North America. On the Yelp.com website, that promotes his dentistry business in Eden Prairie, Minn, over 6,000 had posted violent, vulgar and vicious notes and, for the record, 60 of them ... (click for more)